Leah Buletti, News Editor

Open forums are a beneficial, and even necessary, way to facilitate dialogue between students and administrators about campus issues. These discussions, which are run by a variety of student groups or individual students and are often facilitated by an administrator with expertise on the issue, have occurred in recent months on topics including campus security, Information Technology Services, campus smoking policies and dining.
These open forums, however, cannot serve their purpose unless they are well-attended by students representing both sides of an issue.  Unfortunately, a good turn-out is currently unlikely because the forums are not well-advertised on campus. For example, on the evening of Monday, Feb. 6 there was an open forum on meal plans. No email was sent out to students advertising this event and the announcement was not posted on the Students’ Association website until 2:40 p.m. that afternoon — too late for students to plan their busy schedules around attending. A Facebook event was created as well, but was not posted until Sunday.
People who host forums often have the power to make concrete changes on campus. For example, the dining forum was hosted by Director of Campus Dining and Auxilliary Operations Cam Shauf. Administrators or student hosts come to the forums seeking student perspectives, but there is little point in holding them unless more effort is made to spread the word to students. Lack of attendance hurts both students and administrators because administrators cannot enact change without balanced, relevant and timely student opinion.
Similarly, last November, UR President Joel Seligman held a town hall meeting for students to voice their opinions on various campus issues. Unfortunately, due to a lack of advertising, the meeting had embarrassingly low attendance. This reflected poorly on everyone involved — Seligman went out of his way to make himself available to students, but very little was accomplished because of the lack of student input.
Administrators often ascribe the lack of attendance at these forums and town hall meetings to student apathy.  However, this is not a valid assumption due to the lack of effort to advertise. For example, the problem could easily be overcome by having class councils distribute messages via email. The forums could also be advertised on posters or simply by posting announcements on the SA website several days in advance. Holding these forums without advertising them is missing the forest for the trees — it’s commendable that those in power are giving students a voice, but the gesture is irrelevant unless students are made aware of the opportunity.

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